Even Dogs in the Wild (Rebus 20) by Ian Rankin

Rebus in a deerstalker?

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

even dogs in the wildSiobhan Clarke has been called in to investigate the murder of David Minton, a former Lord Advocate (chief legal officer of the Scottish Government). At first, it looks like a robbery gone wrong, until a note is found on Lord Minton’s body – I’M GOING TO KILL YOU FOR WHAT YOU DID. That evening, as Siobhan and Malcolm Fox share dinner, they are told of a shooting in the city – the target Big Ger Cafferty, retired gangster and long-time Moriarty to Rebus’ Holmes. The shooter missed, and Cafferty is refusing to talk to the police about it, so Siobhan suggests bringing Rebus in on it as the one man to whom Cafferty is likely to open up. Problem is Rebus is now retired (again) – and so begins his new career as a ‘consulting detective’. Fox meantime has been seconded to a team through from Glasgow who are carrying out surveillance on a Glasgow gangster and his son, in Edinburgh looking for one of their employees who has betrayed them and run off with a truck-load of drugs.

The book gets off to a great start with a short prologue where two gangsters are in a forest to bury a body. But things don’t go quite to plan. It takes quite a long time for all the various strands of the book to come together, but as always Rankin handles the plotting with sure skill, meting out the information with perfect timing to keep the reader’s interest from flagging at any point. This book is more noir in feel than some of Rebus’ recent outings, being very much about the gangsters of Edinburgh and Glasgow.

The thing I love most about Rankin is that his books and characters are set very much in the real, recognisable world of present-day Scotland, and that shows through in his treatment of the gangsters here. He portrays them as less relevant than they used to be, with so many of their old fields of activity having become either legalised – money-lenders now advertise their exorbitant interest rates on TV, and gambling has become brightly lit, family fun – or less lucrative, with the police more successful in preventing protection rackets, for instance. Much organised crime is now carried out via the darknet rather than on the streets. Cafferty and his Glasgow counterpart, Joe Stark, are rather outdated dinosaurs – still dangerous in the parts of society in which they operate, but not universally feared or admired as the old-time gangsters once were. Gun crime is shown as it truly is – extremely rare and not a major issue in Scottish society. (There was 1 – yes, one – gun murder in the whole of Scotland in 2014.) It’s very refreshing to get such a true picture, rather than the nonsense that fills so many books in the ‘Tartan Noir’ genre, most of which describe a society that is as realistic as Hobbiton, or as outdated as Dickens’ London.

Ian Rankin in Rebus favourite pub, the Oxford Bar. Photograph by Murdo Macleod
Ian Rankin in Rebus favourite pub, the Oxford Bar.
Photograph by Murdo Macleod

However, the book isn’t only about the warring gangsters. There is another strand that touches on a subject very much in the current news – the historical abuse of children in care homes. Again Rankin handles this with all his usual skill and sensitivity, showing not only how it affected the children at the time but how the after-effects of abuse can cascade down through generations. And he does it without resorting to shock horror tactics, voyeuristically salacious details or crocodile tears. As a result, the story feels both authentic and credible.

There is perhaps a little less reference to the political side of Scottish life than there has been in the more recent books, but I think this is a good reflection of post-referendum life, where the close result has somewhat left the nation feeling that it’s in political limbo. But the storyline touches on the power structures of both police and government, and especially on the abuse of power at the top.

Ian Rankin
Ian Rankin

This wouldn’t be one I would necessarily recommend as a starting point for newcomers to Rebus. There are so many characters from previous books in it that I think it will work best for existing fans, who understand how the relationship between Rebus and Big Ger has developed over the years. But for me, a new Rebus is always a huge treat – Rankin is so in control of his writing and plotting that reading his books is an effortless joy. Another strong entry in the series that I’m sure fans will enjoy, and great to have Rebus back in action after the long two years since the last book. Here’s hoping his ‘consulting detective’ days are not over…

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Orion.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

TBR Thursday 68…

Episode 68

 

Woohoo! The TBR has actually gone down this week – by 4, to 148! So, well on target for the end of the year goal of 70… *chokes*

Anyway, no time to chat (or sleep, or eat)! Here are some that I shall be getting to soonish…

Factual

 

winston churchill at the telegraphHaving thoroughly enjoyed both The Telegraph Book of the First World War and The Churchill Factor recently, this one sounded like a good choice…

The Blurb says The Telegraph had a uniquely close connection with Churchill following every stage of his career, from his early days as a war correspondent for the paper, through his time in the political wilderness, the turbulent war years and his astoundingly energetic life as an elder statesman.  Collected here, for the first time, is the best reportage on this most fascinating of men. Unencumbered by his mythic status, there is praise and blame in equal measure: finding space for both dramatic accounts of his wartime premiership and affectionate reports on the animals living at Chartwell, his country estate.

The Telegraph was also a happy home for Churchill the journalist, and featured within are many pieces written in his unmistakeable prose – he was as comfortable issuing stern jeremiads about the dangers of socialism, or the threat of Hitler’s Germany as he was enthusing about painting.

Restoring much of the urgency and freshness to the life of this extraordinary man, Churchill at the Telegraph is a celebration of an intimate relationship that lasted over sixty years and shows Winston Churchill in all his paradoxical glory.

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Fiction

 

the walnut mansionCourtesy of Yale University Press via NetGalley. I’ve become addicted to the high-quality factual books Yale UP produce, so time to see if their fiction selections work for me too…

The Blurb says This grand novel encompasses nearly all of Yugoslavia’s tumultuous twentieth century, from the decline of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires through two world wars, the rise and fall of communism, the breakup of the nation, and the terror of the shelling of Dubrovnik. Tackling universal themes on a human scale, master storyteller Miljenko Jergovic traces one Yugoslavian family’s tale as history irresistibly casts the fates of five generations.

What is it to live a life whose circumstances are driven by history? Jergovic investigates the experiences of a compelling heroine, Regina Delavale, and her many family members and neighbors. Telling Regina’s story in reverse chronology, the author proceeds from her final days in 2002 to her birth in 1905, encountering along the way such traumas as atrocities committed by Nazi Ustashe Croats and the death of Tito. Lyrically written and unhesitatingly told, The Walnut Mansion may be read as an allegory of the tragedy of Yugoslavia’s tormented twentieth century.

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Crime

 

even dogs in the wildHe’s back! He’s back!! Rebus is back!! And the lovely people at lovely Orion have sent me a lovely advance copy! Lovely! *turns cartwheels*

The Blurb says Detective Inspector Siobhan Clarke is investigating the death of a senior lawyer during a robbery. But the case becomes more complex when a note is discovered, indicating that this may have been no random attack, and when local gangster Big Ger Cafferty receives an identical message, Clarke decides that the recently retired John Rebus may be able to help. He’s the only man Cafferty will open up to, and together the two old adversaries might just stand a chance of saving Cafferty’s skin.

But a notorious family has arrived in Edinburgh, too, tailed by a team of undercover detectives. There’s something they want, and they’ll stop at nothing to get it. DI Malcolm Fox’s job is to provide the undercover squad with local expertise, but he’s soon drawn in too deep as the two cases look like colliding. And meantime, an anonymous killer stalks the nighttime streets, focussed on revenge. It’s a game of dog eat dog – in the city as in the wild.

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the undesiredCourtesy of Hodder & Stoughton via NetGalley. I like Yrsa Sigurdardottir so much I’ve even learned to spell her name! She writes both crime and horror, and this one sounds like it may be a little bit of a mix of the two…

The Blurb saysThe light spilling in from the corridor would have to do. Though weak, it was sufficient to show Aldís a boy sitting in the gloom at the furthest table. He had his back to her, so she couldn’t see who it was, but could tell that he was one of the youngest. A chill ran down her spine when he spoke again, without turning, as if he had eyes in the back of his head. ‘Go away. Leave me alone.’

‘Come on. You shouldn’t be here.’ Aldís spoke gently, fairly sure now that the boy must be delirious. Confused, rather than dangerous.

He turned, slowly and deliberately, and she glimpsed black eyes in a pale face. ‘I wasn’t talking to you.’

Aldis is working in a juvenile detention centre in rural Iceland. She witnesses something deeply disturbing in the middle of the night; soon afterwards, two of the boys at the centre are dead.

Decades later, single father Odinn is looking into alleged abuse at the centre following the unexplained death of the colleague who was previously running the investigation. The more he finds out, though, the more it seems the odd events of the 1970s are linked to the accident that killed his ex-wife. Was her death something more sinister?

Yrsa Sigurdardottir is a huge European bestseller both with her crime and horror novels. You might want to sleep with the light on after reading THE UNDESIRED . . .” 

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NB All blurbs taken from Goodreads.

So…what do you think? Do any of these tempt you?

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This will be the last TBR Thursday until December, since in two weeks time the annual FictionFan Awards extravaganza will be taking the Thursday stage for a while. I do hope you’ll join me for the pick of the genres and the naming of the FF Book of the Year. Personally I can’t wait to find out who will win!